Schumi revved up and ready to go

On the eve of his comeback, Michael Schumacher admits he may not win Sunday's opening race of the 2010 Formula One campaign, but expects to be in contention for an eighth world title at season's end.

Schumi revved up and ready to go
Photo: DPA

Britain’s Jenson Button will be bidding to defend the crown he won in 2009, but all eyes will be on the return of seven-time winner Schumacher when the 41-year-old ends his three-year hiatus at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Having signed a three-year deal with German team Mercedes GP before Christmas, Schumacher will be reunited with team principal Ross Brawn, who oversaw all of the Germans’ world titles.

But after such a long break away from Formula One, Schumacher faces the new crop of drivers in Britain’s Lewis Hamilton and Button at McLaren, while Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel will also give his compatriot a run for his money.

After Brawn GP won the manufacturer’s championship in 2009 before Mercedes took control, Button’s defection to McLaren in the off-season paved the way for Schumacher’s return.

Expectation of another title is high in his home country, but Schumacher expects to be judged on the final standings at the end of the season, not on Sunday’s results.

“I said it quite clearly from the beginning: we do not have to – and probably will not – be in the position to win right from the start,” Schumacher said.

“It is important to be in contention and then use the long season to be at the top at the end. It is not the start which is important; it is the finish.”

Vettel has said all of Formula One’s current young guns are eager to prove themselves against someone of Schumacher’s stature.

“For the younger drivers, it is a challenge (to have Schumacher racing again), because we never thought we would have a chance to test ourselves against him again,” said Vettel.

“From a statistical point of view, he is the best.”

Schumacher nearly returned last year with his old stable Ferrari as a replacement for the injured Felipe Massa, but an old neck injury from motorbike racing foiled his plans.

Having not raced for three years, time is against the German as Formula One racing waits to see whether the old master will dominate again after three years away from Grand Prix racing.

But there is plenty of fight in the former champion who will be the name to beat this season, the question is: is the veteran ready to slug it out with his younger rivals?

“Absolutely, yes,” he said. “This is what I am here for, and I am confident Mercedes can play a role in this fight.

“The team won both titles last year, and now, with Mercedes on board, they want to repeat this success. We all want to win. The season will be long and hard, no doubt about that, but I love this fight – it is because of this fight that I came back to

Formula One.”

With no refuelling allowed mid-race this year, Schumacher says his experience will give him an advantage.

“Saving tyres will be an important factor,” he said. “You will have less sets of tyres available than last year which makes it harder to do what you need to do for setting up the car perfectly. But driving is always about adapting to new circumstance, and this is one of my strong points.

“I would say the biggest difference are the tyres. You will have to develop a good feeling for them.”

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Germany: Further Mercedes recalls likely as ‘Dieselgate’ scandal continues

German authorities will "likely" discover software rigging the level of diesel emissions in Mercedes-Benz cars other than those already sanctioned, the Daimler group warned on Friday.

Germany: Further Mercedes recalls likely as 'Dieselgate' scandal continues
Photo: DPA

Daimler stands accused of hiding the fact that it was using illegal software in diesel cars to cheat emissions tests.

“It is likely that in the course of the ongoing and/or further investigations KBA (Federal Motor Transport Authority) will issue additional administrative orders holding that other Mercedes-Benz diesel vehicles are also equipped with impermissible defeat devices,” the manufacturer wrote in its annual report.

KBA has already ordered the recall of nearly a million Mercedes cars.

The manufacturer disputes the illegality of the “engine management functions” under the spotlight but at the end of September agreed to pay a fine of 870 million euros ($944 million) for selling non-compliant vehicles.

Faced with the threat of new recalls, the manufacturer has suspended the sale of certain models “as a precaution”.

Total charges of 5.5 billion euros from dieselgate, which began with Volkswagen in 2015, and a mass recall of vehicles fitted with faulty airbags from supplier Takata contributed to net earnings slumping by 64 percent to 2.7 billion euros ($2.9 billion) last year.

According to its annual report, the group more than doubled its provisions for “governmental and legal proceedings and measures” with 4.9 billion euros ($5.32 billion) entered on the balance sheet for 2019 against 2.1 billion at the end of 2018.

It also increased its provision for possible related costs at 8.7 billion euros, as opposed to 7 billion at the end of 2018.

“The increase relates to ongoing governmental and legal proceedings and measures taken with regard to Mercedes-Benz diesel vehicles in several regions and markets, as well as an updated risk assessment for an extended recall of Takata airbags,” wrote Daimler.

Like the entire sector, Daimler is engaged in a race to reduce the level of CO2 emissions from its cars and comply with strict standards in force this year in the EU, under penalty of heavy sanctions.

“The ambitious statutory requirements will be difficult to fulfil in some countries,” it admitted.

Daimler chairman Ola Kallenius has, on several occasions, said that the new standards were a great challenge for the manufacturer. While he is hopeful of meeting standards “in the next few years”, that is “not guaranteed” for 2020 and 2021, he said last week.

Daimler also said that the coronavirus epidemic, centred on China, may have a negative effect on sales and lead to “major disruptions in production, purchasing markets and the supply chain”.